Over 40 years ago, Dame Judi Dench was all set to appear in the dual roles of Jennyanydots and Grizabella in the original West End production of CATS when she tore her Achilles tendon and had to pull out of the show before it opened. She was replaced by Elaine Paige whose rendition of "Memory" became a top 10 hit. In her typically positive way, Dench recounted to students at Manhattan Community College in a talk she gave there last year, that she wasn’t disappointed, as not being in the show meant she could go and see it.
Now Dench, who turns 84 on December 9, will finally get to be in the show that eluded her all those years ago, when she joins a host of other big name stars in a film adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. This time round, Dench will be playing Old Deuteronomy whose job, as leader of the Jellicle cats, is to select the cat who will be reborn.
Also appearing in the film, which is due to be released on December 20, 2019, is Sir Ian McKellen. If you’re familiar with CATS, his role of Gus the Theatre Cat won’t come as a surprise. Idris Elba, James Corden, Jennifer Hudson and Taylor Swift have also been cast in the film, which will be directed by Tom Hooper, who also directed the film versions of The King’s Speech and Les Misérables.
As well as CATS, Dame Judi and Sir Ian have also teamed up to appear in the film All is True, an historical drama based on the final years of William Shakespeare. Kenneth Branagh, who is directing the film, portrays Shakespeare, with Dench playing his wife Anne and McKellen playing the Earl of Southampton. The film is scheduled to be released next year.
Dench also has two more films coming out. Artemis Fowl, an adaptation of the children’s fantasy book and the World War 2 drama, Six Minutes to Midnight. In the meantime, of course, you can see Dench weekday afternoons on MPT at 3pm in As Time Goes By.
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